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Archive for the ‘Sovereignty’ Category

MacArthur Found God's Will

John MacArthur. Found: God’s Will.  Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, July 1st, 2012. 80 pp.

There seems to be no shortage of so called “Christian” books on God’s will and yet few of them are biblical.  John MacArthur’s book Found: God’s Will is a helpful work on this subject since it is biblically driven and definitely not man-centered.  In seven chapters MacArthur lays out logically what God’s Will is for our lives.

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Guidance and the voice of God Jensen Payne

Phillip D. Jensen and Tony Payne. Guidance and the Voice of God. Youngstown, OH: Matthias Media, September 16th, 2012. 183 pp.

This work is an expanded and revised edition of a book on God’s guidance and the will of God.  I received this book from the Shepherd’s Conference and didn’t realized I had it until I found it again in my book shelf as I was working on a series for my church on the sovereignty of God.  Talk about providence and what the book called “God’s behind the scene” guidance!  I found this book quite helpful and refreshing since the authors stressed the Bible as the means of knowing God’s will and they go against the grain of some of the books and speakers out there on seeking the plan of God that is man-centered, mystical or down right weird.

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Sovereignty of God Arthur Pink

Arthur W. Pink. The Sovereignty of God.  Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library, April 1st, 2013. 270 pp.

I was blessed reading through this book which served as a theological devotional while I was working on my church’s series through the Sovereignty of God.  Pink shares many Bible verses to make his case that God is sovereign and in control of all things over several chapters such as “The Sovereignty of God in Creation,” “The Sovereignty of God in Administration,” etc.  In the forward of the book Pink acknowledges that the most controversial part of the book for many would be the chapter on the sovereignty of God n reprobation but I think Pink’s position is biblical however unpopular it may be.  I was really amazed at how well Pink dealt with the subject of God’s sovereignty and the human will.  There were things Pink said that I thought were newer insights of contemporary Calvinists who are more philosophically attuned that Pink said in less philosophical in jargon.  I was impressed and I supposed I learned from this that there is nothing new under the sun.

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Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post byMike Iliff.  He’s a British brother in Christ who have been a friend of our blog for years.  Mike’s blog can be found HERE.

make-money-with-a-free-offer

The Free Offer of The Gospel or ‘Man’s Responsibility and the Sovereignty of God’ is one of those topics that always seems to come back. Just when you think, as a topic, it’s been put to bed and sorted, up it pops again. I mentioned this to a dear friend of mine (Now in his 80’s, and sat under the ministry of Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel). He said ‘it’s been the same for 300 years, it keeps coming back’. On the plus side it keeps coming back because people, hopefully, are thinking. The objections are pretty much always the same. This makes me wonder if people are reading their Bibles. They go to churches that seem to have a good statement of faith, some of them even subscribe, in their constitutions at least, to one of the historic Reformed confessions. What is taught in these churches? Is any doctrine taught at all! Is there no desire to understand the Scriptures? I do wonder.

We were sitting around kind of talking about the topic in a roundabout sort of way and a Christian in their mid-twenties, brought up in a Christina home, says something along the lines of: ‘but God is outside of time and knows the beginning from the end and knew who would believe…’. I jumped in at this point and said ‘no, that isn’t it at all. That would make our Salvation conditional’. I recommended they read a good solid book on the topic. They agreed, but by all accounts that’s the end of it. Sadly, they will most likely carry on believing as before. The good thing, for me anyway, about this topic coming back is that I’m reading The Potters Freedom by James White, and enjoying it immensely. I recommended this book to the young man in question because it deals with all the issues. It’s a bit pricey, but I reckon it’s worth it. I have it on Kindle which makes it a bit easier on the wallet.

Being involved in open air preaching for several years – admittedly a while ago now – the question of just what we are to tell unbelievers was incredibly important if a) we wanted to honour God in our ministry, b) we wanted to tell sinners the truth, c) we did not want to deceive anyone, d) we didn’t want to give false hope and e) wanted their salvation to be grounded in what God has done and not a decision that made them feel good at the time. Our ministry and conversations must be God-centred, not man-centred. We must be like John the Baptist and point sinners away from us, and to ‘The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). A book I read a while ago was God Centred Evangelism (BoT) by R. B. Kuiper. Another helpful resource is a primer on The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (Grace Publications No.1 ‘Life by His Death’). Speaking of Owen, J. I. Packers Introductory Essay on The Death of Death is also extremely helpful. On page 69 of Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP) by J. I. Packer we read this:

‘The Gospel is not, ‘believe that Christ died for everybody’s sins, and therefore yours,’ any more than it is, ‘believe that Christ died only for certain people’s sins, and so perhaps not yours.’ The Gospel is, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sins, and now offers Himself as your Saviour.’ This is the message which we are to take to the world. We have no business to ask them to put faith in any view of the atonement; our job is to point them to the living Christ, and summon them to trust in Him.’

I read that a good while ago and at the time underlined it in red! As you go on as a believer that does get nuanced a bit (with a few footnotes thrown in for good measure) but that in essence is what we are to tell people. But what if, as happened to me, thankfully just the once, someone asks you ‘did Jesus die for me? What do we say then? I believe we have to be honest and not try and fudge the question. The Bible is clear. Christ died only for His people and we do not know who they are.  But here is someone asking me a direct question. That must have been at least 25 years ago but my answer today would be the same. ‘I don’t know. But I know this; if you repent of your sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ you WILL be saved. You must be saved God’s way and that is to trust in His Son.’ I suggest that is rare to be asked outright like that.

On another occasion a group of us were talking about the sovereignty of God and man’s responsibility and one brother put it like this: we have a 200% religion. If we said it was 100% God that would be Hyper-Calvinism, if we said it was 100% man that would fall into another error. We have to keep the balance, so it’s a 200% religion: it’s 100% God and 100% man. I’d never heard this before and people found it helpful. I could see ‘the penny drop’ but I wasn’t so sure so kept thinking (still am) about it over the next few weeks. [In fact, it’s the reason I bought The Potters Freedom.] In terms of Gospel presentation I see the point. But I’m still unhappy about the way it’s stated. To me, it gives man a foot in the door. And that worried me about the ‘penny dropping’. I should say; I’m not a Hyper-Calvinist. And you’ll see that as we go on – I hope you will anyway.

At the heart of the problem is this: if God is truly Sovereign then what part does man play. That’s the issue. The glory of man is the issue – we want some or all of it. And we can’t have it. We dare not have it. Jonah summarised it like this – Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:4). Negatively, this cuts both ways in terms of what we preach, or say to the unbeliever, and, the feeling that it cuts the legs from under us in terms of the evangelistic imperative. But the reality is, a full understanding of what God has done will give the evangelist not only a confidence in God to evangelise but will equip you with the most amazing and full Gospel message filled with certainty.

And so, dear reader. You have happened on this page. What can I say to you? You have read this far. You are intrigued, maybe annoyed, or just curious. You are not yet a Christian and you know it. Maybe no one else knows. You have many questions. But listen, the message of the Gospel to you is very simple, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. How can I say this with such confidence? It’s very simple. Because Salvation is of the Lord He has done all that is necessary for salvation. It is God that has sent His Son into the world. It is Jesus that has died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. It is Jesus that has risen from the dead demonstrating the sacrifice is accepted by God the Father. It is Jesus that sends His Spirit into the world to convict men & women, boys & girls of their sin. It is God that awakens the sinner. It is God that grants faith and repentance. It is this Sovereign Gracious God that now calls upon you to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Will you believe on The Lord Jesus Christ?

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Note: I am overseas at the moment and will not have any internet.  This is a guest post by Joe Quatrone Jr.  His blog can be found HERE.

My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

Election is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult doctrines for us to comprehend. Simply put, election means everyone who comes to faith in Christ does so because God, in His grace and mercy, chose them to be saved. Election to salvation is an act of grace, rooted in the purpose of God. Election starts with God, not man. Election is rooted in grace, not works. It is unmerited and undeserved.

While there is no question this is what the Bible teaches, there are many questions as to what it really means. At the heart of the difficulty with this doctrine is the tension between God’s election and the free will of man. Libraries of books have been written on this subject and no one has ever been able to sufficiently settle the myriad of questions surrounding the tension. Those of the Reformed view would say it is the tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

Now, a word is in order about what exactly I mean by the term “reformed.” I am speaking of what is commonly known as Calvinism. I have found it difficult to identify a universal definition of Calvinism because everyone I have met who claims to be a Calvinist wants to define exactly what they mean by that. So for the sake of our discussion, we will simply overview the basics.

Calvinism stems from the teachings of the great reformer, John Calvin, who lived between 1509 and 1564. Calvin emphasized the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, and the necessity of grace for salvation, all which are foundational to my theology and many other Bible-believing Christians as well. Some years after he died, his followers systemized his theology and went beyond what Calvin himself taught. This system is classified with the now famous acronym T-U-L-I-P.

The “T” in Tulip stands forTotal Depravity.” Man can do nothing to save himself, not even exercise faith. Faith is a work. Since the fall, man is born with a natural bent toward sin. Every part of him has been infected with this disease of sin, so he cannot save himself, nor can he seek God without the prompting of the Holy Spirit through His grace. The Bible clearly teaches we cannot come to God on our own. It takes God drawing us to Himself: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44).

The “U” in Tulip stands for “Unconditional Election.” God alone initiates salvation; it is not based upon man’s exercise of faith. God, in His grace and mercy, unconditioned on anything else, by His own sovereign desire, chose some for salvation and left others to suffer the full consequences of their sins: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight” (Eph. 1:4). We did not influence God’s decision to save us; He saves us according to His plan.

The tension here arises from the Scriptures which say no one is saved apart from God’s plan, yet anyone who repents and trusts Jesus Christ will be saved. Which is it? The Bible teaches both: God chooses us and we must choose God. It teaches God will hold us responsible for our decision to choose or reject Jesus, and yet it also says we cannot come to Him unless He enables us. It says God has His elect and it also says He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is one of the great tensions in Scripture.

I have found many Christians are preoccupied by the doctrine of election and how it affects salvation. Friends, we don’t know who is elect and who is not. All we know is we have a responsibility before God to go out into the world and share the gospel with everyone we can to become a member of the family of God. God does the electing. He chose us to do the evangelizing. The emphasis for us should be on “doing.”

The “L” in Tulip stands for “Limited Atonement.” This can be a confusing phrase, so some prefer the term “particular redemption.” Not everyone will be saved. The benefit of the work of Christ is limited only to those who trust Him. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, but the only ones to benefit from His atonement are those who receive, by their personal faith in Christ, the free gift of salvation offered to them: “I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours” (Jn. 17:9).

The “I” in Tulip stands for “Irresistible Grace” (or some prefer the term “effectual calling”). Those God has chosen to be saved, He will make willing to come. They do not want to resist. Those who are predestined to be saved will ultimately be saved. The elect will not be forced to be saved against their will, but will come to Christ of their own choosing because God’s grace is irresistible. His call on their life will be effective: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose… and those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (Rom. 8:28-30).

The “P” in Tulip stands forPerseverance of the Saints.” Those whom God saves He saves eternally; they cannot lose their salvation: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). This is referred to as eternal security or once saved always saved, but this doctrine is often misunderstood. The perseverance of the saints is not a license to sin and live however we want; rather, if we are truly saved we will display actions which give evidence to the fact we have truly been saved.

All true believers will endure in faith to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but will preserve to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; but they will be kept by the power of God through faith to salvation.

Election is the gracious purpose of God, by which He calls, regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free will of man. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness. It is unchangeable; therefore, it excludes boasting and promotes humility. Salvation begins and ends with God. It is by His grace and mercy. Man can have nothing to do with it.

Here are three practical ways to put this truth in practice:

  1. Recognize salvation is from God alone and we must rely on His grace to be saved. He chooses us and we also choose Him.
  2. Resist the temptation of trying to know what we simply cannot know (Deut 29:29).
  3. Rest in the assurance that because God saves, we cannot un-save ourselves. We cannot be saved by grace and kept by works. It is simply not compatible with the plan of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

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John_Frame

Those of you who follow our facebook page and Twitter will know that we post John Frame quotes every morning Monday through Saturdays for your edification and Lord willing we plan to do this up until the end of 2015.

I thought today I post an extended quote that would be too long to post through Social Media.

One of the thing that I enjoy about reading John Frame is that it is not dry systematic theology but his exploration of the relationship of doctrines and the inter-connectivity of God’s truth makes me stand at awe of God when I see the coherence of Biblical truths.  I would say it portray the beauty of God!  It is not only wonderful as an apologetic (the coherence of the Christian worldview) but it moves me to worship God–we can call it “doxological apologetics” to borrow that phrase from another apologist!

Here John Frame makes the point with the example of the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility:

And so it often comes as an exciting discovery that doctrines that at first glance to be opposed are actually complementary, if not actually dependent one on another.  For Calvinists, for example, divine sovereignty and human freedom are examples of that sort of dependence and complementarity.  Although at first glance those doctrines appear to be opposed to one another, a closer look shows that without divine sovereignty there would be no meaning in human life and therefore no meaningful form of freedom.  And if our concern for freedom is essentially a concern to maintain human ethical responsibility, we should observe that divine sovereignty is the source of human responsibility.  Because the sovereign Lord is the cause of and authority over human responsibility we can say that God’s sovereignty–His absolute lordship–establishes human responsibility.  Thus Scripture often places the two doctrines side by side, with no embarassment or sense of impropriety whatsoever (cf. Acts 2:23; 4:27f; Phil. 2:12f.).  Human responsibility exists not ‘in spite of’ but ‘because of’ God’s sovereignty.  Not only are the two compatible; they require each other” (John Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 268).

In the past I have written on our blog on the importance on how .  I’m grateful to see John Frame point out something similar with human freedom and human responsibility necessitate the Sovereignty of God.

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Chance_comps.indd

Earlier this year Crossway published a 368 page book by Dr. Vern Poythress titled Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probabiliy and Random Events.  I appreciate how Dr. Poythress has made many of his books  available to the public for free as a PDF.  This new book is now among them!

You can download the PDF by clicking HERE.

The description of the book on the publisher Crossway’s website is as follows:

What if all events—big and small, good and bad—are governed by more than just blind chance? What if they are governed by God?

In this theologically informed and philosophically nuanced introduction to the study of probability and chance, Vern Poythress argues that all events—including the seemingly random or accidental—fall under God’s watchful gaze as part of his eternal plan. Comprehensive in its scope, this book lays the theistic foundation for our scientific assumptions about the world while addressing personal questions about the meaning and significance of everyday events.

Here’s the table of content:

Table of Contents

Introduction: Experiences with Unpredictable Events
Part 1: The Sovereignty of God
1.  The Bible as a Source for Knowledge
2.  God’s Sovereignty
3.  Unpredictable Events
4.  Disasters and Suffering
5.  Human Choice
6.  Small Random Events
7.  Reflecting on Creation and Providence
8.  God’s Sovereignty and Modern Physics
9.  What Is Chance?
Part 2: God as the Foundation for Chance
10. Regularities and Unpredictabilities
11. Trinitarian Foundations for Chance
12. Responding to Chance
13. Chance in Evolutionary Naturalism
14. Chance and Idolatry
Part 3: Probability
15. What is Probability?
16. Predictions and Outcomes
17. Theistic Foundations for Probability
18. Views of Probability
19. Subjectivity and Probability
20. Entanglement of Probabilities
21. Probabilistic Independence
22. Independence and Human Nature
23. Is God Probable?
Part 4: Probability and Mathematics
24. Pictures of Probability
25. Mathematical Postulates for Probability
26. Theistic Foundations for Some Properties of Probability
27. Limitations in Human Thinking about Events and Probabilities
28. Conclusion
Appendices
Appendix A: Why Gambling Systems Fail
Appendix B: The Real Problem with Gambling
Appendix C: A Puzzle in Probability
Appendix D: Interacting with Secular Philosophical Views of Probability
Appendix E: Permutations and Combinations
Appendix F: The Birthday Problem
Appendix G: Diseases and Other Causes
Appendix H: Proofs for Probability
Appendix I: Statistics
Appendix J: The Law of Large Numbers versus Gamblers

Enjoy!

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